Last week, the interwebs went cuh-razy when Topman made the rather misguided decision to sell these ridiculously sexist T Shirts. As is pretty much always the case when large companies are called out for doing something more than a little moronic, they quickly backtracked, issued a half-baked apology and pulled the T Shirts (sorry sexists, you’ll have to buy your offensive apparel elsewhere now). I’m outraged that there even needed to be outrage for these to be removed from shops. What this should really start is a larger discussion about how it would be deemed acceptable for these T Shirts to be sold in the first place. So let’s start it!
Topman’s apology actually included these words: ‘Whilst we would like to stress that these T-shirts were meant to be light-hearted and carried no serious meaning, we have made the decision to remove these from store and online as soon as possible.’ Really Topman? Like, for realz? Asking what ‘breed’ someone’s girlfriend is, equating women to animals and not so subtly calling us bitches is just light hearted, yeah? And a T Shirt that lists many of the excuses men who commit domestic violence use in a check list format, not offensive at all? ‘No serious meaning’? The mind boggles really.
What I find more disturbing is thinking about the process that must be gone through to even get these shirts to the shop floor in the first place. How many people would have had to give these the OK? And that’s really the issue here, that this casual sexism has permeated society to a level where apparently execs at a major fashion retailer don’t even bat an eye when something as offensive as these T Shirts cross their desks.
Being a raging sexist then saying ‘but it’s just a joke!’ is just as cringeworthy as ‘I’m not racist, I have tons of black friends!’ When I get rude comments on this blog, usually from men, insulting my appearance, their defense is most likely that it doesn’t matter because ‘it’s just the internet!’ At some point, somewhere, someone has to take responsibility for their actions and the messages they’re putting out there.
To speak about women this way is wholly unacceptable. I don’t care if it was intended to be ‘light hearted’ – it isn’t. We have enough casual sexism to deal with on a day to day basis without a major brand printing T Shirts , encouraging men to wear their sexism blazed proudly across their chests (though the upside I guess is that we can spot the douchebags quicker?). Then to say in your apology that it was just ‘light hearted’ and ‘carried no serious meaning’ reinforces the notion that this kind of thing is OK and we are just being hysterical spoil sports for not laughing along with you.
And yet again, there are no repercussions. So we are just expected to swallow it, but my oh my, that weak apology is a bitter pill.